By Radley Balko - March 11
I’ve been covering the militarization of America’s police departments for about eight years now. Over the past 35 years, Congress has generally been interested only in accelerating it. But the tide may be turning. Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) has just introduced what may be the first bill aimed at actually reining in the trend.
He explains in an op-ed for USA Today co-written with activist Michael Shank:
Something potentially sinister is happening across America, and we should stop and take notice before it changes the character of our country forever. County, city and small-town police departments across the country are now acquiring free military-grade weapons that could possibly be used against the very citizens and taxpayers that not only fund their departments but who the police are charged with protecting . . .
In fact, in the last several months, the following towns around the country, many of them small, have acquired free MRAPs from U.S. war zones: Texas’s McLennan and Dallas Counties; Idaho’s Boise and Nampa; Indiana’s West Lafayette, Merrillville, and Madison; Minnesota’s St. Cloud and Dakota County; New York’s Warren and Jefferson Counties; South Carolina’s North Augusta and Columbia; Tennessee’s Murfreesboro; Arizona’s Yuma; Illinois’s Kankakee County; and Alabama’s Calhoun County.
Seem like a lot? It is. And that’s only in the last few months. This trend is not only sweeping America’s small cities, it’s hitting American college campuses as well. Ohio State University recently acquired an MRAP. Apparently, college kids are getting too rowdy.
These are just some of the most egregious examples. There are countless stories of police departments getting (and often later selling) assault weapons, drones, and other military-grade equipment that is absolutely ill-suited for America’s main streets. ThePentagon’s 1033 program, which ”provides or transfers surplus Department of Defense military equipment to state and local civilian law enforcement agencies without charge,” is a big part of this disturbing trend . . .